Our View:Why is the first idea always to raise taxes?

Well, the Governor’s Working Group on Highway Funding just completed its so-called “menu of options” for new revenue sources for Arkansas roads, and despite the array of proposals that will not call for any new taxes we read where one member of the working group, who heads the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, supports the hare-brained idea to “simply” raise the fuel taxes by 5 cents immediately and phasing in another 5 cents over time. Now then, Gov. Asa Hutchinson is adamant in his position that any new revenue or tax increase must be offset with tax cuts in order to remain revenue neutral. The governor said it is important to fund our highways, but “we want to keep the hardworking Arkansans in mind when they are at the gas pump filling up their truck as they commute to work.” But, Randy Zook, who heads the state Chamber of Commerce said, “I think people are willing to say: ‘I like that, I’m willing to pay a little bit more for that…” Oh, come on Zook, right now fuel prices are lower than they have been in a long time but when fuel prices soar to levels of near $4 a gallon or more, we seriously doubt this off-the-cuff, half-baked assumption that “people are willing to pay a little more” will flush down anyone’s toilet. Let’s face it, the 20 or so possible suggestions that are being presented for consideration are basically the same ones that were sent to former Gov. Mike Beebe from a so-called road study group he formed to come up with highway funding solutions. We dispute Zook’s assumption that Arkansans are simply willing to fork over more taxes when there are plenty of other ideas on the table to consider that do not call for higher taxation. We’re appalled at Zook’s assumption that slapping higher taxes on fuel is “the simplest way” and any money raised should be offset by cuts elsewhere would be a “considerable political problem”.Listen, we would much rather see serious consideration given to the idea of shifting of existing revenue from other parts of the budget to highways; and transfers of general revenue raised over several years from the sales tax on new and used vehicles rather than “simply” slapping higher taxes on the price per gallon at the pump. We believe with good budgetary management this can be accomplished without affecting any current area of state government that currently benefits from these existing tax revenues. While some of our readers may disagree, we might also be in favor of the idea to use the $60 million to $70 million a year now being sent making desegregation payments to three Pulaski County school districts. Those payments are scheduled to end in 2017, and it would take legislative action to reverse the decision to use that money to further reduce the already very low state sales tax on groceries. As taxpayers, we can only expect level heads to prevail in any final decisions that are made and consider raising taxes on fuel at the pump as a last option.

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